Academy Awards: White, Male and Lacking?

BreakingModern — The Academy Awards nominations announced last week ignited a firestorm of controversy. The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite emerged early in the day and has spread across social media platforms, calling out the Academy for the lack of diversity in this year’s nominees. But it’s not just a lack of racial diversity that has the social media world stirring. With very few women nominated, and very few films as a whole in the running for top honors, there’s room for concern there, too.

Oscar Inequalities

There are 102 nominations for men this year. There are 25 for women.

This year there are exactly zero women nominated for best director, screenwriter or cinematographer. None. Even with options in the director race like Ava DuVernay for Selma and Angelina Jolie for Unbroken, all the nominees are men. If you broaden the scope to include a full seven of the non-acting categories, women still make up less than 20 percent of the nominees.

NominationsThis is the whitest Oscar ceremony since 1998.

For the first time since 1998, there are no actors or actresses of color nominated in any of the four acting races.

Let that one sink in for just a moment.

David Oyelowo’s portrayal of Martin Luther King, Jr., in Selma brought critical acclaim, but no Oscar nomination. There was also buzz that Ava DuVarnay could be the first African-American woman nominated for an Oscar in directing, but she was conspicuously absent from the list of nominees. Selma did secure nominations for best picture and best original song, but with a hugely positive response — and a 99 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes — it’s notable that the film wasn’t more universally recognized by the Academy.


The Academy voters are overwhelmingly old white men.

The Academy does not release demographic details on its membership, but the available data is less than encouraging for those seeking diversity in the ranks. Academy members are 94 percent white, 77 percent male, with a median age of 62.

NominationsIf you’re thinking you want to apply to become a member of the Academy and help broaden their demographics a bit, I did a little research to help you out. Apparently, you need to either be an Academy Award nominee, or be sponsored by two current members of the Academy to be considered for membership. Perhaps the lack of diversity in the nominees stems from the Academy superdelegate system itself?

A Strange Lineup

The obvious lack of diversity is certainly the most significant takeaway of this year’s Oscar nominations, but there were also several other surprises from Thursday’s announcement.

Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman tied for the most nominations, each securing an impressive nine. Proving, according to Linda Holmes at NPR, that “it’s a good year to be an idiosyncratic man.”

Amy Adams, who just won the Golden Globe for best actress in a musical or comedy, didn’t even make the Oscar nomination list.

Maleficent only received one nod, for costume design. The Sony leaks showed us that some execs aren’t excited to work with her, but I’m starting to wonder if Hollywood in general is upset with Angelina Jolie.

Life Itself, the moving story of the life of film critic Roger Ebert, was overlooked for a nomination for best documentary feature. Director Steve James knows this feeling of disappointment — his film Hoop Dreams was shut out of the documentary race in 1994, too.

None of 2014’s blockbuster films grossing $100 million or more domestically made the cut for best picture. The highest grossing film on the list of nominees is The Grand Budapest Hotel, which currently stands at $59 million from the domestic box office.

Likewise, life is not awesome for The LEGO Movie, which is conspicuously absent from the best animated feature film lineup. Co-director Philip Lord responded to the slight with his own brand of LEGO humor.



List of Nominations

This year’s Academy Awards, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, will be telecast live on Feb. 22. Here’s the full slate of nominees:

Best Picture:

  • American Sniper
  • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Boyhood
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • Selma
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Whiplash

Actress in a Leading Role:

  • Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
  • Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
  • Julianne Moore, Still Alice
  • Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
  • Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Actor in a Leading Role:

  • Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
  • Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
  • Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
  • Michael Keaton, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Actress in a Supporting Role:

  • Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
  • Laura Dern, Wild
  • Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
  • Emma Stone, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Actor in a Supporting Role:

  • Robert Duvall, The Judge
  • Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
  • Edward Norton, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
  • J.K. Simmons, Whiplash


  • Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Richard Linklater, Boyhood
  • Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
  • Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

Animated Feature Film:

  • Big Hero 6
  • The Boxtrolls
  • How to Train your Dragon 2
  • Song of the Sea
  • The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Documentary Feature

  • CitizenFour
  • Finding Vivian Maier
  • Last Days in Vietnam
  • The Salt of the Earth
  • Virunga

Documentary Short Subject:

  • Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
  • Joanna
  • Our Curse
  • The Reaper (La Parka)
  • White Earth

Foreign Language Film:

  • Ida (Poland)
  • Leviathan (Russia)
  • Tangerines (Estonia)
  • Timbuktu (Mauritania)
  • Wild Tales (Argentina)

Animated short film:

  • The Bigger Picture
  • The Dam Keeper
  • Feast
  • Me and My Moulton
  • A Single Life

Live action short film:

  • Ava
  • Boogaloo and Graham
  • Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak)
  • Parvaneh
  • The Phone Call

Adapted screenplay:

  • Jason Hall, American Sniper
  • Graham Moore, The Imitation Game
  • Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice
  • Anthony McCarten, The Theory of Everything
  • Damien Chazelle, Whiplash

Original Screenplay:

  • Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Richard Linklater, Boyhood
  • E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, Foxcatcher
  • Wes Anderson (screenplay), Wes Anderson and Hugo Guiness (story), The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler

Original Score:

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel, Alexandre Desplat
  • The Imitation Game, Alexandre Desplat
  • Interstellar, Hans Zimmer
  • Mr. Turner, Gary Yershon
  • The Theory of Everything, Jóhann Jóhannsson

Original Song:

  • “Everything is Awesome” in The LEGO Movie
  • “Glory” in Selma
  • “Grateful” in Beyond the Lights
  • “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” in Glen Campbell … I’ll Be Me
  • “Lost Stars” in Begin Again

Makeup and Hairstyling:

  • Foxcatcher, Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel, Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White

Costume Design:

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel, Milena Canonero
  • Inherent Vice, Mark Bridges
  • Into the Woods, Colleen Atwood
  • Maleficent, Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive
  • Mr. Turner, Jacqueline Durran

Production Design:

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel, Adam Stockhausen (production design) and Anna Pinnock (set decoration)
  • The Imitation Game, Maria Djurkovic (production design) and Tatiana Macdonald (set decoration)
  • Interstellar, Nathan Crowley (production design) and Gary Fettis (set decoration)
  • Into the Woods, Dennis Gassner (production design) and Anna Pinnock (set decoration)
  • Mr. Turner, Suzie Davies (production design) and Charlotte Watts (set decoration)


  • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Emmanuel Lubezki
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel, Robert Yeoman
  • Ida, Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski
  • Mr. Turner, Dick Pope
  • Unbroken, Roger Deakins

Visual Effects:

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould
  • Interstellar, Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past, Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

Film Editing:

  • American Sniper, Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach
  • Boyhood, Sandra Adair
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel, Barney Pilling
  • The Imitation Game, William Goldenberg
  • Whiplash, Tom Cross

Sound Mixing:

  • American Sniper, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin
  • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga
  • Interstellar, Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten
  • Unbroken, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee
  • Whiplash, Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

Sound Editing:

  • American Sniper, Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
  • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Martín Hernández and Aaron Glascock
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Brent Burge and Jason Canovas
  • Interstellar, Richard King
  • Unbroken, Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro

For BMod, I’m  .

All screenshots: Becket Morgan

Becket Morgan

Author: Becket Morgan

Based in central Vermont, Becket Morgan covers apps and lifestyle tech for BreakingModern. Follow her at @becketmorgan on Twitter or +Becket Morgan on G+.

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  1. Your implied insinuation that the Academy is somehow racist is ridiculous. Last year the same Academy members that are 94 percent white, 77 percent male, with a median age of 62 Last year, gave 12 Years a Slave a Best Picture Oscar and as well as several other awards. The nominations and the awards are based on achievement and merit not the skin color or sex of the nominees. To advocate otherwise would make the whole proceedings a fraud. Would the sound mixing on Whiplash be more valid if one of the nominees were a woman or African American??? Seriously???? Maybe you and Al Sharpton should call an emergency meeting to address this…

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  2. Hi Dan - thanks for your comment. I do agree with you that it’s not as simple as saying “the Academy is racist” - though that would be a convenient way to explain the disparity in nominations. This year the slate of nominees is perhaps more obviously skewed than in the recent history of the Oscars, but the fact that more men are nominated - and more white people - is a longstanding fact. I would argue that the real problem stems from what movies are produced each year. Until we as consumers demonstrate that we want to see more diversity in film - including more women and people of color in prominent roles in the top billed films - I think we’ll continue to see this sort of disparity in the nominations. I don’t think it’s helpful for the composition of the Academy to be as un-diverse as it is right now, but I think the real problem is much bigger than the makeup of the Academy.

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